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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Vietnamese Shrimp Soup aka Bun Rieu

When I was living in Seattle this soup was hard to find. When my sister and I asked around we were told the soup was too “smelly and stinky” for most restaurants to serve. I must say that the aromas are strong but it is one of the most flavorful soups you will ever eat. Of my five sisters and me, I think four of them would say this soup is their favorite. (Isn’t that right, Kentra, Gia (not me the other Gia), Anna and Sara?) My favorite soup is still Pho.

For the broth:

1 pound of shrimp heads and/or dried squid* (4-5 small ones)
fresh tomatoes
chicken broth
fish sauce, to taste

For the topping:

two eggs
two tablespoons of ground pork (ground very fine)
four tablespoons of crab paste, canned crab or fresh crab meat
1/3 teaspoon of tiny amount of shrimp paste, to taste
fresh ground pepper
2 teaspoons, ground dried shrimp

For the garnish:

rice vermicelli
fresh mint, Thai basil, spearmint or any other type of Vietnamese herb
sliced green onions
fresh cilantro
bean sprouts
chili peppers
lime wedges
water spinach aka ong choy or kangkung

This soup is meant to be spicy, tangy, salty and downright delicious. The shrimp heads make up the broth and although you may not have any shrimp heads laying around if you happen to have a chance to buy shrimp, buy them with the heads on so you can save the heads for making this soup.

1. Take the shrimp heads/squid* and add them to the chicken broth, bring to a boil. Skim off any foam and let cook for one hour, then strain the broth, discard the shrimp, add the tomatoes and cook for another (20 minutes if the tomatoes are ripe and up to 30 minutes if they are not at their peak ripeness). The broth is simple but very tasty, add salt, 1/2 teaspoon of shrimp paste and a bit of fish sauce to taste. The hardest part of making this soup is over, now what’s left is to assemble it into bowls.

2. Prepare the rice vermicelli. Next, it is time to make the topping, which will be added to the broth before it is served. In a separate bowl, scrambled the two eggs, add the ground shrimp, fresh black pepper, the crab paste or the crab meat, the ground pork, shrimp paste and mix well. The consistency of this mixture will be like that of thin oatmeal. Now make sure the broth is at a low boil, gently ladle the topping onto the simmering broth. The topping will cook and harden to the texture of a very light mousse. This takes about 15 minutes. Now the soup is ready to serve. Fill the bowls with the rice vermicelli, ladle some of the topping and the broth onto the noodles and serve. The garnishes should be placed on the table and should be added to the soup.

*Before you add the squid to the broth, opened a window then char it a bit over your gas or electric stove.

Here is the finished soup.

Here are the garnishes.

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I found some kang kung yesterday at the Vietnamese store in Torino and my mom prepared the stems. They must be rinsed then sliced very thinly lengthwise and placed in cold water with a tiny squeeze of lemon juice (to keep them green). After about 10-20 minutes they curl up and can be used in the soup. The leaves are used in stir fry and soup.

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At 4:50 AM, Anonymous tinakala said...

OMG. After reading all your entries I must confess. Until now I was under the illusion that I can cook. No more. :)

At 8:43 PM, Anonymous Gia said...

Okay that looks really good. But where is the shaved kang kung? I've been scouring the Vietnamese restaurants in SF for this...have yet to find it.

Gia (the other one, not you)

At 2:13 PM, Blogger Sara said...

Aww. I didn't know pork was part of the recipe. I will have to try it without the pork and see how it goes!


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